Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung urged Vietnam’s aviation sector and relevant agencies on Thursday to actively prepare and execute an expansion plan for the country’s busiest airport.
Dung insisted that he be “briefed on the progress of this project every two or three days” after a visit to Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vietnam’s busiest airport has already operated beyond its capacity, serving nearly 26.5 million passengers in 2015 against its design capacity to handle 25 million passengers annually.
In 2016, the airport is expected to handle 30 million passengers.
The Ho Chi Minh City airdrome is also facing a myriad of problems, including severe congestion at its entrance and an insufficient number of runways, taxiways, and aprons.
The plan for the expansion calls for building permission to be granted on a 21-hectare land plot west of the airport’s location, which is zoned for military purposes and managed by the Ministry of Defense.
While the defense ministry continues consideration over transferring the land to the airport managers, Deputy PM Dung urged relevant parties to speed up the transition and choose a qualified developer for the project.
At Thursday’s meeting, the deputy premier was also briefed of the problems of Tan Son Nhat.
Overloaded inside and out
According to the Southern Airports Authority, the main cause of the congestion at the entrance of Tan Son Nhat is the facility’s connection to traffic via only one road – Truong Son Street.
Gridlock is inevitable when there is an influx of vehicles rushing to bring passengers to the airport simultaneously.
Even worse, peak arrival and departure times at Tan Son Nhat coincide with the daily commuting rush when workers are ending their morning and afternoon, typically from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm, and 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm, according to the airport managers.
Consequently, vehicles are often put in a standstill on Truong Son Street, with cars sometimes queuing in long lines on the flyover leading to the aboveground international terminal.
It is also not uncommon for passengers to exit cars or motorbikes before reaching the airport in order to run to the terminals when traffic prohibits their vehicles from moving.
A traffic jam on the entrance to Tan Son Nhat
A lack of essential facilities to service the increasing number of new planes and passengers is plaguing the airport.
Airlines are expanding their fleets so quickly that airport infrastructure is unable to accommodate the influx of new aircraft, according to the Tan Son Nhat managers.
There are currently 51 airplane aprons at the airport, barely 60 percent of the 82 needed to meet demand.
Tan Son Nhat also only features a single runway and taxiway, meaning departing planes are often forced to wait up to 30 minutes for arriving aircraft to leave the runway and taxi to the apron.
Passenger halls in both domestic and international terminals are always crowded, as they have a collective capacity of receiving 23 million passengers a year, while the real number is nearly 30 million.
Deputy Minister of Defense Tran Don said his ministry and the transport counterpart are working on a plan to use the 21-hectare land plot in the expansion of the Tan Son Nhat airport, which will be submitted to the prime minister next week.
The pink section in this map is the 21-hectare land plot zoned for military purposes.
A dual-use airport, serving both civil and military purposes, is expected to be built on the land.
The defense ministry has also allowed Tan Son Nhat to use a 7.63 hectare land plot, on which the Airports Corporation of Vietnam will construct a new taxiway.
The Airports Corporation of Vietnam is also poised to start a new project to build eight aprons suitable for Airbus A320 aircraft next year.